The Las Vegas Raiders were flying high after winning three of their last four games, but Sunday’s action against the Atlanta Falcons painted a different picture.
Just last week the Raiders went toe-to-toe with the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, and as a result, they received an abundance of recognition for doing so. However, as Las Vegas entered the week with a 6-4 record and held the seventh spot in the AFC playoff picture, their play on the field was not recognizable. The Raiders found themselves on the wrong side of a 43-6 blowout to the Falcons, which was in large part due to penalties, turnovers and an unpleasant offensive performance.
In the majority of the Raiders’ games this season, their losses have come as a result of a poor defensive effort. That wasn’t necessarily the case this time around despite the 43 points the Raiders allowed.
When asked if anything felt “off” heading into the game against the Falcons, quarterback Derek Carr said he thought so based on the team’s week of practice.
“I didn’t think personally, we had our best week of practice,” Carr said. “I thought we were a little flat.”
Defensively, the Raiders did all they could early on, forcing the Falcons off the field quite regularly in the first half. They also put numerous Falcons’ drives to a halt as Atlanta kicked five field goals on the day and was successful in each attempt. Quarterback Matt Ryan was held to 185 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Ultimately, the Raiders shot themself in the foot time-and-time again. The Raiders committed five turnovers — four of which came by quarterback Derek Carr, with three fumbles and one interception to cap off the poor outing. Carr’s offensive line did him no favors in pass protection, but ball security appeared to haunt him in the pocket once more. Carr now has 11 fumbles on the season through 11 games.
Las Vegas also was penalized 11 times for 141 yards.
“We’ve been pretty good to this point,” said Jon Gruden on the Raiders’ penalty troubles. “We’ve had a couple games where we have been penalized. Roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, we had some holding calls, illegal hands to the face. You fall behind in the down and distance. You give teams free shots. It’s a recipe for disaster, and that was what you saw today.”
So that posses the question: are the Raiders really a playoff team?
Losing to the Falcons by 37 points is a statement in its own right. Last season the Raiders entered Week 12 with a 6-4 record just as they did this year and were upset by a struggling Jets team, 34-3. This had a similar feel to it. The Raiders went on to finish last season with a 7-9 record as they couldn’t kick things into gear after that one-sided affair. So as they sit here today with a 6-5 record and face the Jets in Week 13, a lot will be on the line for their playoff hopes.
What’s even more troubling about the Raiders’ Week 12 loss in Atlanta is the Falcons were left short-handed on offense. Running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Julio Jones were out with injuries and Las Vegas didn’t show the means to capitalize.
If the Raiders are going to show they belong in the playoffs, it’s going to start with their offense. They have the talent to score at an elite rate, but it’s a matter of eliminating the penalties, executing on third down and taking care of the football.
The silver lining to the Raiders remaining schedule is they still play the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins — two teams who they’re chasing in the AFC standings. While they do hold their own destiny, they cannot replicate the performance that they put on display in Atlanta.
Next week they’ll have another road trip across the country to MetLife Stadium and face the winless New York Jets squad.